He’s the MC that Swedish grandparents have heard of. He’s also the guy that told Jimmie Åkesson to shove it. When Sweden’s most influential political musician Timbuktu plays at Gröna Lund, you sell your first-born to see him, says YLC’s Ting Yiu.
I knew he was a big deal when middle-aged lunch lady types were hobnobbing with men in suits. Even bikery muscle-men bopped heads next to the über cool teens on the dance floor. Jason Diakité aka Timbuktu is a versatile creature. Seamlessly blending funk and reggae with his captivating lyrical flow, this guy’s been making music for two decades! It’s been an interesting rise from playing the underground hip hop circuits of Malmö and Copenhagen to becoming the rapper on everyone’s lips.
“Unless you’re fluent in Scandinavian slang, you’ll have no clue what Sweden’s hottest rapper is talking about….You won’t care, either, once you hear the way he rides the syncopated acoustic beat: Timbuktu’s nimble, singsong flow needs no translation. In this global age, he deserves to be a worldwide star.” (Simon Vozick-Levinson in his column for Entertainment Weekly)
Nearing his 40th year, with looks and swag of a much younger man, this guy is pure energy on stage. Unless alcohol’s involved, shy Swedes can take aaaaages to warm up. At pop royalty Miss Li’s gig last year the crowd was frigid as a cat lady (the gig was fabulous). Taking stupid amounts of cajoling to – god forbid – do something as outrageous as dance! In comparison, this crowd was fairly HEAVING by the second song (that’s winning by Swedish standards). Willing to shake their junk in public, Wednesday night’s audience is evidence of his mega appeal.
The setlist was a mix of politically charged rhymes, feel good ballads and infectiously danceable Caribbean tinged numbers. Touring with funk band Damn! for the last 10 years, their musical symbiosis is THE definition of a good time. Rapping in English and his native Skånska, his songs pay tribute to African rhythms, folk, blues and Latin acoustics. He transitions between incredible harmonies to compelling hip hop lyrics that literally smack you sideways.
His taste for social justice seems to stem from his dad, Madubuko Diakité, the African American human rights lawyer credited with introducing hip hop to a young Timbuktu. His searing “Ett Brev” (inspired by Michel Moore’s letter to George Bush in Stupid White Men), gained widespread radio time. He minces no words, verbally pummelling Göran Persson (Swedish Prime Minister, 1996-2006) with accusations of racism and collusion with the US (English lyrics here).
Timbuktu’s social critiques have gotten certain Swedes all hot and bothered. Some claim that “Svarta Duvor och Vissna Liljor” – Black Doves and Wilted Lillies – is a direct violent threat to Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkessson. Judging by the cheers and enthusiastic sing-along, the crowd was squarely on Timbuktu’s side.
With all this success, you’de think he’d be a diva. On the contrary, he seems genuinely humble, openly expressing his love for his fans that night and thanking “whoever is up in the sky” for his success. Even with two certified gold albums in Sweden, this guy does not rest, releasing his 9th studio album on the same night of the concert. To top it off, he’s hosted Musikhjälpen four years in a row and set up a recording studio Dakar for slum kids in 2013. That’a top-notch behaviour in my books.
He wrapped the night up with the infectious “Strö Lite Socker På Mig” (Sprinkle a Little Sugar on Me) leaving us dancing with permanent euphoric grins. I’ve been listening to his songs on repeat since and so should you.
Images: Nina Uddin